Guest Column: Earth Day Anniversary

April 22nd marks the 47th Earth Day — a day created to celebrate our planet, environment, and wildlife. Every Californian has a story to tell about how nature has made their lives richer.

For some, it is regional food, lakes and rivers, or a beloved local park. For others, it is the ties to ranches, working farms, forests, or our magnificent public lands. The ecosystem is one of California’s greatest assets. We have a unique and diverse climate and geography, and some of the most diverse and extraordinary plants and wildlife in the world.
Today, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the effects of climate change become more and more apparent. Earth Day 2017 provides an opportunity for all of us to do something meaningful for our planet by giving back in our communities. Thousands of volunteers will be needed throughout California to assist with projects, such as campfire center improvements, habitat restoration, native garden conservation, fence building, trail maintenance, and beach cleanup.
The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after he took a trip to Santa Barbara following a devastating oil spill off the California’s central coast. Upon returning to Washington, D.C., Nelson introduced a bill designating April 22nd as a national day to celebrate the Earth. The date was chosen to help commemorate the birth of California naturalist and conservationist John Muir, who was born on April 21, 1838.
In 1970, the first Earth Day celebrations took place in hundreds of communities across the United States, bringing together millions of Americans who supported environmental reform. By the end of that year, Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. By 2000, formal events celebrating Earth Day were being observed in 184 countries, and more than 500 million people participated in those events. It now is considered the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.
Earth Day is a day of action designed to change human behavior and provoke science-based policy changes, and serves as a reminder to us that our planet’s future is in jeopardy. The science is clear: climate change continues to harm our planet and has led to rising sea levels, warmer oceans, rising global temperatures, and increased incidences of extreme weather events. I encourage everyone to attend local Earth Day events, which are planned throughout the month of April in communities throughout California. Help do your part to restore and care for the places where we live, work, and play…for this and future generations. Seize the opportunity to ensure that nature continues to sustain us in the 21st Century.